"Ana Mafi Khouf Min Kafeel": Counter-Narratives in Comedic Video Representations of Migrant Workers in the Arab Gulf States

  • Nadeen Dakkak University of Edinburgh
Keywords migrant workers, Gulf States, popular culture, social media, comedy
Keywords migrant workers, Gulf States, popular culture, social media, comedy

Abstract

In the Arab Gulf States, migrant workers are perceived as temporary and economic by dominant nationalist narratives that justify restrictive migration policies and exclusive citizenship laws. This article argues that online popular culture productions offer a space for the emergence of counter-narratives that assert the presence of migrants and advocate social change from below. I examine representations of South Asian workers in short comic skits and song videos produced during the last decade by comedians and actors in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Focusing on both aesthetic innovation and limitations, my analysis demonstrates how these videos utilize parody and satire to criticize the exclusion of migrant workers. I compare videos produced by Gulf citizens and non-citizens and argue that, even though the producers navigate different boundaries and offer distinct performances, they challenge authority and national boundaries by centralizing spaces of labor and turning them into sites of agency and cultural expression.

Author Biography

Nadeen Dakkak, University of Edinburgh

Nadeen Dakkak is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Alwaleed Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World at the University of Edinburgh. She completed her PhD in English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick in 2021, where her research examined migration to the Arab Gulf States in Arabic fiction. She has published “Migrant Labour, Immobility and Invisibility in Literature on the Arab Gulf States” in Mobilities, Literature, Culture, edited by Marian Aguiar, Charlotte Mathieson, and Lynne Pearce (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), and has an article in the Journal of Arabian Studies on Mia Alvar’s In the Country.

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Published
2022-01-18